Day 2 in the Holy Land

After morning prayer, led by Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM,  we visited more holy sites in Bethlehem, but not the ones most people see.  Today we witnessed three places where people of faith are making the Incarnation a reality in our world.

We started with a visit to a house of a Palestinian Christian family that was being rebuilt by the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation. Heading next to their office we reviewed the various programs and projects that HCEF prepares for the purpose of improving the lives of the Christians in the Holy Land.  One of their foci is education of Christians in the U.S.  HCEF does its work in a way so as not to be too political in their direct support of the Palestinian Christians.  However, their work in educating U.S. Christians is directed towards solidarity between the Christian communities of our two lands.  Part of solidarity is recognizing the other’s existence.  There are many U.S. Christians that are completely unaware that there are Christians living in the Holy Land.  It is hoped that by being aware and learning the stories of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, U.S. Christians will also become engaged in the underlying causes of their struggles; one of the chief causes being the unjust policies of the Israeli government many of which are supported, or at least not contested, by the U.S. Government.

The second place of incarnational hope was Bethlehem University.  Here we heard from students and faculty as they shared how this relatively new school (begun in 1973) offers Palestinian young people new opportunities.  In particular, it was refreshing to be in a place where Christian Palestinians and Muslim Palestinians study, learn, and play side by side.  This is quite a different story than we hear.

Finally, we ended our day at the Holy Land Trust, where we interacted with their founder, Sami Awad.  In this interaction we heard stories of how non-violence has been making a difference in the the conflict.  Nonviolence seems to not only be a tool for lasting change, but perhaps the only tool for real lasting peace.

All three experiences were a grace-filled encounter of seeing Christ alive in the land where he once walked; and still does today.

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